The results of our poll thus far are overwhelming. 87% of our readers want the Cubs to take a college pitcher, whether it be Mark Appel, Ryan Stanek, or Sean Manaea.
It seems like a no-brainer. The Cubs need pitching. Soon. They need impact talent on the mound in their organization. I'm one of those guys on board with taking a pitcher with their first round pick (#2 overall).
But then I read this article in Baseball America by Jim Callis on the #1 overall pick and how the best players ever chosen there were high school hitters (Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey, Jr.). The Cubs don't have the #1 pick, but Callis mentioned how Atlanta preferred high school pitcher Todd Van Poppel, and the Mariners almost took two college arms: Mike Harkey and Darren Dreifort over Ken Griffey and Alex Rodriguez, respectively.
It made me curious, so I decided to look at the top college pitchers taken between 2000-2010. I didn't look at the past two years because it's still too early to judge. Best players are selected using career WAR. In cases where the top college pitcher went 1st overall, I also included the next highest college arm taken since the Cubs have the 2nd pick.
- Top college pitcher taken: Adam Johnson, Twins (#2 overall)
- #2 overall pick: Johnson
- Best first round pick(s): Adrian Gonzalez (1), Chase Utley (13), Adam Wainwright (29)
- Top college pitcher taken: Mark Prior, Cubs (2)
- #2 overall pick: Prior
- Best first round pick(s): Joe Mauer (1), Mark Texeira (5),
- Top college pitcher taken: Brian Bullington, Pirates(1), Jeff Francis, Rockies (7)
- #2 overall pick: B.J. Upton, Rays
- Best first round pick(s): Zach Greinke (6), Prince Fielder (7), Cole Hamels (17)
- Top college pitcher taken: Kyle Sleeth, Tigers (3)
- #2 overall pick: Richie Weeks, Brewers
- Best first round pick(s): Weeks, Aaron Hill (13), Chad Billingsley (24)
- Top college pitcher taken: Justin Verlander, Tigers (2)
- #2 overall pick: Verlander
- Best first round pick(s): Verlander
- Top college pitcher taken: Ricky Romero, Blue Jays (6)
- #2 overall pick: Alex Gordon, Royals
- Best first round pick(s): Ryan Zimmerman (4), Ryan Braun (5), Troy Tulowitzki (7), Andrew McCutcheon (11), Jacoby Ellsbury (23)
- Top college pitcher taken: Luke Hochevar, Royals (1)*
- #2 overall pick: Craig Reynolds, Rockies (2)*
- Best first round pick(s): Evan Longoria (3), Clayton Kershaw (7), Tim Lincecum (10)
*Note: 5 of the first 6 picks were college pitchers that year: Hochever, Reynolds, Brad Lincoln (4), Brandon Morrow (5), Andrew Miller (6)
- Top college pitchers taken: David Price, Rays (1), Daniel Moskos, Pirates (4)
- #2 overall pick: Michael Moustakas, Royals
- Best first round pick(s): Price, Matt Weiters (5), Jason Heyward (14)
- Top college pitcher taken: Brian Matusz, Orioles (4)
- #2 overall pick: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
- Best first round pick(s): Buster Posey (5),
- Top college pitchers taken: Stephen Strasburg (1), Matt Hobgood, Orioles (5)
- #2 overall pick: Dustin Ackley, Mariners
- Best first round pick(s): Strasburg, Mike Trout (25)
- Top college pitcher taken: Drew Pomeranz (5)
- #2 overall pick: James Tallion, Pirates
- Best first round pick(s): Bryce Harper (1), Manny Machado (3)
Here's what scares me. There are only 3 college pitchers taken in that 11 year time frame who were among the top players in the draft. Two of those were the ones taken #1 overall. Those pitchers, Strasburg and Price, were considered to be special talents who had little to no chance of slipping to #2. That is not the case in this year's draft.
Justin Verlander is the only exception in the past decade as a college pitcher who was taken 2nd who has made a long term impact. And you could argue that, after the first pick, he's the only college pitcher taken in the entire first round that was among the top players drafted in his respective class.
I understand, as many of you do, that the Cubs desperately need pitchers and that college arms are more likely to make it to the majors than high school arms. But when you talk about impact talent, it's a different story. Recent history shows that the top college arms, with a couple of exceptions, haven't had the impact that other players have had. Excluding top overall picks, only 2 of the top 25 1st round pick on this list were college arms: Verlander and Tim Lincecum.
It's a tough decision based on the Cubs need for starting pitching and the opinion of many that college pitching is the strength of this year's weaker draft class.
But it seems to me that if someone like outfielders Austin Wilson, Austin Meadows, and/or Clint Frazier (pictured above) show greater long term impact potential, the Cubs will have to think long and hard about selecting them rather than stretching to fill a need. Though it is the strength of the draft, there really are no "can't miss" prospects among the starting pitchers. The Cubs will have to decide if there is a potential Justin Verlander (who was no sure thing) in the group. If not, maybe they'll have to look to fill their starting pitching needs elsewhere and just take the best available player.
Filed under: MLB Draft